Massachusetts' Most Expensive Home, Ever: Is It Worth It?

The luxury property market in Massachusetts just got a whole lot more luxurious.

A nine-acre property on Cohasset Harbor, on Boston's South Shore, was listed this past week for $55 million. While the 20,000 square-foot-mansion, called The Oaks, is pretty spectacular on its own, the reason for the steep price tag is that the property comes with some unusual outbuildings: two restaurants, a marina and a quaint inn. "This is actually four properties that comprise an entire harbor," says Jonathan P. Radford, a vice president at Coldwell Banker, Boston, and the listing agent for the property.

But how many people want to shell out big bucks for a property that also involves running several businesses? "Someone might look at a penthouse and decide to wait, because they will see another penthouse come along," says Radford. "But another New England harbor will not come along anytime soon. The right candidate, when found, will move quickly on this."
Radford says the listing, which is more than twice the amount of the second most expensive property for sale currently in Massachusetts -- a $23-million home in Boston's Back Bay -- is an indication of the revived market for luxury property in Massachusetts.

"For the first four months of 2010, the number of $1-million sales in Massachusetts is up 60.5 percent compared with the same four months in 2009," he says. "In 2009, buyers did not have sufficient confidence to look at properties. That has been dramatically different this year. What is most telling is that while the level of interest from buyers is substantially higher than last year, the number of closed homes is dramatically higher." He cited a home in Boston that sold for $18 million, and a $10-million condo in Boston that sold in the past two weeks.

But this property goes beyond a luxury home. The Atlantica and Olde Salt House restaurants, the Cohasset Harbor Inn and the Mill River Marina make up about 50 percent of the asking price for the property. And many wonder who would take on the businesses in addition to a large home. Current owner Peter Roy, a retired businessman who has lived in the home for the past 20 years, acquired the businesses over the time he's lived there, and hired people to run them.

Radford said that he is confident there is someone who will want to "combine business with pleasure" and buy the entire property.

Roy, who along with his wife and three children are relocating to Toronto, is just the third owner of the property.

The current structure, a Georgian Revival mansion, was built in 1928 by members of the Barron and Bancroft families -- former owners of Dow Jones & Co. and The Wall Street Journal -- after they razed the original estate.

Clarence Barron purchased the original home in 1902 for $130,000 from Lawrence Barrett, an actor and a captain in the Civil War.

The Oaks has 45 rooms, including 10 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and 12 fireplaces. A deepwater dock allows boat owners to keep their boats in the water all year. A 2006 addition to the home added an 816-square-foot family room.

But despite all of its luxuries, Radford says the home is "very much a home for a family."

"The home is close to town; the children can cycle to see friends," he says. "There's a private beach on the harbor. For parents, that provides a certain level of comfort."

Though it is unlikely a busy family would see value in running all the various businesses as well.

If a family isn't interested in running a quaint inn next to their large yet cozy home, Radford says, the owner is willing to talk: "If a buyer was to present an attractive offer for a single property in the portfolio, that would be given serious consideration."
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